Tag Archives: Pro Football Hall Of Fame

The Buffalo Bills Mt. Rushmore

Western New York has seen their fair share of all-time greats. Photo Credit: Buffalobills.com

The team that represents western New York, and is beloved in parts of Canada, the Buffalo Bills have struggled in recent seasons. They haven’t made the playoffs since 1999, the last season in a decade that brought the franchise many of its greatest moments.

Despite the playoff drought, the Bills have won 2 League Championships (AFL), 4 AFC Championships, 10 Division Championships, and made the playoffs 17 times in their 55 season history. Even without a Super Bowl championship in four consecutive tries, outside of the fan bases of the teams they lost to, those Bills teams may be remembered more because of their perseverance and persistence to continue in pursuit of their goal.

Who ever said “no one remembers who came in second” must’ve said that before the Buffalo Bills of the 1990s. The players on those teams are all-time greats and were even celebrated in a recent documentary. And I’ll do the same, because a few of the key members on those Bills of the 90’s make the cut for my version of the BIlls Mount Rushmore.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Bruce Smith (1985-1999) The 2008 Bills Wall of Fame and 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrine finished his time in western New York with a franchise record 171 sacks and 941 tackles which puts him in 2nd place in team history. Smith was an 11-time Pro Bowler, 9-time 1st-team All-Pro, 2-time 2nd-team All-Pro, 2-time AP Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1996), 4-time UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year (1987,1988,1990,1996), 3-time Pro Football Writers Association Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1993, 1996), 2-time NEA Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1993), and a member of the NFL’s 1980’s and 1990’s All-Decade team. The Team will officially retire his jersey (#78) this season, making him only the second player to receive this honor.

Jim Kelly (1986-1996) is the first player in team history to have his jersey number retired (#12). Kelly was a 5-time Pro Bowler, 1991 1st-team All-Pro, 1992 2nd-team All-Pro, 4-time AFC Champion and the Bills all-time career leader in wins (101), passing yards(35,467), passing touchdowns (237), pass attempts (4,779) and completions (2,874). He’s currently the last QB to lead the franchise to a playoff win. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Bills Wall of Fame in 2001.

Marv Levy (1986-1997;GM 2006-2007) Coached the Bills to 4 consecutive AFC Championship titles. In 1988 and 1993 he was awarded the United Press International NFL Coach of the Year award. His 112 career wins is the most in Bills team history. He’s a member of the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade team and was inducted into the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame in 1996.

Thurman Thomas (1988-1999) with all due respect to O.J. Simpson–the Bills first ever Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrine (1980)–is the more complete running back and was a key member of their 4-time AFC Championship teams. Thomas was a 2-time 1st-team All-Pro, 3-time 2nd-team All-Pro, and 5-time Pro Bowler and led the NFL in yards from scrimmage from 1989 to 1992. The Bills all-time leader in rushing yards (11,938), rushing touchdowns (65) and rush attempts (2,849) is a member of the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade team, and a 2005 inductee into the Bills Wall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

So there it is. Let me know what you think Bills Mafia. Should Hall of Famers Andre Reed and O.J. Simpson be on the list? Or did I get it right?

The L.A./St. Louis Rams Mt. Rushmore

Back again! The Rams have returned to L.A. where they spent 48 seasons before moving to St. Louis. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

The Los Angeles Rams have returned to Southern California, and brought pro football back to L.A. for the first time in 22 seasons since they moved to St. Louis in 1994 and the Raiders to Oakland.

The Rams organization has had great success in both of their recent homes. In St. Louis they won Super Bowl XXXIV, two NFC Championships (1999, 2001), three division titles, and made the playoffs five times. In Los Angeles, the Rams won the 1951 NFL Championship (pre AFL-NFL 1970 merger), eight Conference Championships, eleven division titles, while making the playoffs 21 times. They also won the 1945 League Championship and the 1945 NFL West division title, while calling Cleveland home from 1936-1942, 1944-1945.

As you can see, the Rams franchise has had plenty of success in their eight year history, and they’ve had seventeen Hall of Fame players and personnel to help make it all happen. That makes my job extremely difficult to narrow it to four. So here is my Mount Rushmore for the Rams organization.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Deacon Jones (1961-1971) coined the team quarterback sack and had the most vicious technique–the head slap, which is now illegal–to beat offensive lineman. Jones played in the era before the statistic became official, but had it been, according to a Pro Football Weekly article in 2000, he would have accumulated 173.5, which would make him third all-time in NFL history today, behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White. His 21.5 sacks in 1967, and 22 in 1968 in only 14 games would stand today as the two greatest seasons in league history. Jones went on to win Defensive Player of the Year both of those seasons. The 8-time Pro Bowl and 8-time All-Pro selection is a member of the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, as well as the NFLs 1960s All-Decade Team. Known as the “Most Valuable Ram of All-Time,” the team retired his jersey number 75, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.

Merlin Olsen (1962-1976) was, and still is the most accomplished Ram to play his entire career with the franchise. His 14 Pro Bowl selections puts him in a first place tie with Bruce Matthews, Tony Gonzalez and Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. 9-times, the defensive tackle was selected to the All-Pro team, 6 of them 1st-team honors. He is a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time, 1960s and 1970s All-Decade Teams. Like his teammate Deacon Jones, he played in an era when major defensive statistics weren’t recorded. However, his contributions were not lost. In 1999, The Sporting News listed him the 25th best player of All-Time on their Top 100 Greatest Football Players list. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, the Rams Ring of Fame, and the team retired his jersey number 74.

Eric Dickerson (1983-1987) has his name plastered across the NFL record book in several rushing categories. While he played for a total of four teams in his career, he’s mostly known for running past opponents in the blue and yellow while sporting his iconic prescription goggles and Jerri curl. Dickerson was a 4-time Pro Bowl and 4-time 1st-team All-Pro with the Rams in their first stint in Los Angeles. He also won the NFL rushing title three times, and the NFL MVP and Rookie of the Year in 1983 as he set the rookie rushing record with 1,808 yards. He followed up his MVP campaign by rushing for a NFL record 2,105, which still stands today. Three times he won the NFC Offensive Player of the Year award (1983, 1984, 1986) and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award in 1986. He’s a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, the Rams Ring of Honor, The Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the team retired his jersey number 29.

Marshall Faulk (1999-2005) was the centerpiece of “The Greatest Show on Turf” that saw the Rams win their only Super Bowl (XXXIV) and two NFC Championships (1999, 2001). Faulk is one of only two players to have 1,000 rushing yards and receiving yards in a season (1999). He followed that up by winning the NFL MVP in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He is first in team history in rushing touchdowns (58) and total touchdowns (85), third in total rushing yards (6,959) and fourth in receptions (407). In 2011 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Rams Ring of Honor. The team also retired his jersey number 28, and NFL.com ranked him the 70th best NFL player of all-time.

Let me know what you think Rams fans. Did I get it right? Should Kurt Warner, new Hall of Famer Orlando Pace, or someone else have made the list?

 

The Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts Mt. Rushmore

Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts home since 2008. Photo Courtesy: Josh Hallett

In 2016 the Indianapolis Colts will play their 63rd season as a member of the National Football League. 30 of those seasons in Baltimore (1953-1983) at Memorial Stadium before moving to the “Circle City.” In that span they’ve won 4 League Championships (Does not include the AFL or NFL Championships won during the same seasons as the AFL–NFL Super Bowl Championships prior to the 1970 Merger),3 NFL Championships—pre 1970 AFL-NFL merger, 2 Super Bowl Championships, 7 Conference Championships and 16 Divisional Titles. All those accomplishments make them one of the most successful franchises in Pro Football History. And the following are the four guys who are mostly responsible for these accomplishments. If the Colts ever created their Mount Rushmore, these are the four men you’d likely see on it.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives.  Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday.  I will make a separate list for them soon.
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them?

Manning hold over 40 Colts records. Photo Courtesy: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Peyton Manning (1998-2011) is in the discussion to be on the Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time Mount Rushmore, I think that alone makes his case to be on the Colts’ Mount Rushmore. Manning holds nearly every passing record in the Colts history; most wins by a QB (141), most passing yards (54,828), most passing touchdowns (399) and most completions (4,682) among forty-four others. “The Sheriff” led Indianapolis to 2 Super Bowl appearances (XLI, XLIV) winning his first title in Super Bowl XLI to go along with the game’s MVP award. Manning won 4 of his 5 NFL MVP’s (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009), 11 of 14 Pro Bowl selections and 8 of 10 All-Pro team honors with the Colts. He is on the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team. The recently retired Manning had his jersey number 18 retired by the team, and the Colts will honor him with a statue outside of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. There’s no doubt he will be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee when his eligible in 2022.

Johnny “U” was the prototype QB in the early stages of the passing era. Photo Credit: Gannett News Service

Johnny Unitas (1956-1972) was the standard at the QB position with the Colts, and the NFL for that matter. “Johnny U” led the Baltimore Colts to 3 NFL Championships (1958, 1959, 1968) and their first Super Bowl (V) victory. A 10-time Pro Bowl and 7-time All-Pro selection, Unitas was under center for the Colts in what has been called “The Greatest Game Ever Played” versus the Giants, beating New York in overtime 23-17 for the NFL Championship. It was the first game that ever went into sudden death. Four times the man with the flat top and black high top cleats won the NFL MVP Award (1957, 1959, 1964, 1967). Unitas is a member of the NFL 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, as well as the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade Team. In 1979 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Colts retired his number 19 jersey.

Harrison reaped the benefits of being Manning’s go-to-guy.

Marvin Harrison (1996-2008) was Peyton Manning’s number one option during their time in “Naptown.” Harrison is the Colts all-time leader in receptions (1,102), receiving yards (14,580) and receiving touchdowns (128). The 8-time Pro Bowl and 8-time All-Pro selection holds, or is tied for 33 individual NFL records. The combination of he and Manning holds the NFL Records for most completion between quarterback and wide receiver (953), passing touchdowns (112), passing yards (12,756) and completions in a season (143). The Colts inducted him into their ring of honor in 2011, and he is a member of the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class.

Berry was to Unitas, what Harrison was to Manning. Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Raymond Berry (1955-1967) helped the Baltimore Colts win back-to-back NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959. The 6-time Pro Bowl and 5-time All-Pro wide receiver has the record for most catches in a league championship game (12), and is a member of the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, as well as the NFLs 1950s All-Decade Team. The team retired his number 82 jersey and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973. Sporting News ranked him the 40th player on their list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Colts fans let me know what you think. Do you agree with these four? Or is there someone I’m missing? I want to hear from you.

Time for “The Bus” to Ride Into Canton

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Bettis finished his career 5th on the NFL All-time Rushing List.

Picture this. It’s early January, the temperature is in the low teens as the wind and snow blow in off the banks of the point where the three rivers of Ohio, Alleghaney and Monongahela meet. The grass in Heinz Field is covered in a mix of snow and mud from 300 plus pound men’s cleats grinding it to a mess. Perfect for old school football. The kind where a 5 foot 11, 255 pound running back is counted on to run over men his size and bigger to glory, otherwise known as the end zone. Jerome Bettis did that time and time again for 13 season.

That’s the signature play of Jerome “The Bus” Bettis career. Bettis was nicknamed “The Bus” because of his physical build, running style and the black & yellow uniform he wore for ten seasons with the Steelers. But also, because like a school bus, he was reliable to carry the goods—the football— through all conditions, especially during those winter months in Pittsburgh.

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Bettis’ running style was built for heavy winters. Photo Courtesy: Steelers.com

Bettis looked like a fullback, but had the quick, shifty feet of a scat back. When he retired after the 2005 season, Bettis was ranked 5th all time in rushing yards in NFL history—he’s now sixth. All of the top ten all time rushers who are eligible, are in the Hall of Fame. Yet “Bus” has had to wait. He’s been a finalist now three times since he became eligible in 2011.

Those who support Bettis will point out how great he was in pass protection, how he was an unbelievable leader on teams that won 5 Division championships and was a constant Super Bowl contender, playing in four AFC Conference Championship games and a Super Bowl. Bettis is a 6 time NFL Pro Bowler, 3 time All-Pro (2 on 1st team, 1 2nd team) and had 8 seasons over 1,000 yards rushing. His coaches and opponents on the field will point out how much of a tone setter he was with his throwback, smash mouth running style.

Those who have not voted for him to get into the Hall, cite his lack of involvement in the passing game–200 receptions for 1449 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving which is the least amount among the top 10 all time rushers. They say he wasn’t much of a versatile runner, especially on the edges–averaging 3.9 yards per attempt, but never more than 4 in his final nine seasons. His yards per carry dropped every season until he retired from 3.8 to 3.2.

In the movie business, screenwriters put as much emphasis on the final image as they do Act II. Unfortunately for Bettis, many voters for the Hall of Fame have ignored the fact that he played and won a Super Bowl in his final game (SB XL).

Bettis won his only Super Bowl ring in his final game.

What they remember is that in his final four seasons in the Burgh, his productivity declined as he became a short yardage and goal line back, as he split carries with the likes of Willie Parker, Amos Zeroue, Duece Staley and others. His last four seasons he never ran for one thousand yards, the closest he came was 941 in the 2004 season, when he played in 15 of 16 games. By the way, the Steelers went 15-1 that year and made it to the AFC Championship game. His final season he only rushed for 368 yards, but missed 4 games due to injury.

The other running backs near Bettis on the all time rushing list, fared much better individually in their final chapter. Emmitt Smith went to Arizona and still manage to gain 937 Yards for the Cardinals, Curtis Martin rushed for 735 Yards in his final season in a New York Jets uniform, Walter Payton finished his career with a 533 yard season and Jim Brown and Barry Sanders both went out in their primes with 1544 and 1491 yards respectively.

This is the problem for Bettis, he’s being compared against the greatest backs in history, instead of his place in history during his era. If he doesn’t get in soon, he will be compared against the next great running backs; LaDanian Tomlinson—he will be eligible in 2017—Edgerrin James, Eddie George and others.

The Bus ram rodded over opponents that stood in his way. His current opposers won’t be so easy to truck through. But, as he is now one of the seventeen finalists for induction in 2014—and the only running back—for a third time, the Bus’ Bust in Canton could be just a short bus ride away. We’ll find out on February 1st when the new class is announced at the Super Bowl in New York.

“The Bus” needs his Hall Of Fame bust.